Ray Allen, a 10-time NBA All-Star, recently participated in a USO holiday tour with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. On this tour, the athlete, along with other celebrities, visited service members in Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Germany.
Now back in the states, Allen has spoken about much the trip meant to him, both as the son of an Air Force metals technologist and as a retired athlete.
NBA Legend Ray Allen meets with service members during a troop engagement at Incirlik Air Base, Dec. 5, 2016. (Photo: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
One of the topics Allen touched on during an interview with Sports Illustrated was the way military terms pop up in sports discussions, even though they don’t really fit:
In the NBA, often times we’ll be in the locker room and we’ll talk about “going to war” and “going into battle” and “being in the foxhole,” all these terminologies that we equate with being at war. I have such a greater appreciation for the conflicts going on around the world, now I try to not use those terms out of respect.
NBA legend Ray Allen, left, fires an M240 machine gun at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area during this year’s USO Holiday Tour, Grafenwoehr, Germany, Dec. 8, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
Allen also told SI about how a comment from Dunford helped him appreciate the military’s expeditionary mindset, and how service members are constantly working to make sure that conflicts rarely come to American shores:
One of the things that General Dunford said that resonated with me was, “We’re over here at war, my job is to make sure that we have all away games.” So when I got back on U.S. soil, I thought about how privileged we are.
While speaking to USA Today, the NBA player took a moment to discuss how different life is in a combat zone, but that being there with professional warfighters made him feel safe:
“I (felt) more protected than I’ve ever felt in my life, being on that tour. I had some bad guys with me. Guys who knew how to handle weapons, that had been in combat. I’m looking to my left and right, and I’m like ‘I’m safe, I feel good about where I am, because these guys know what they’re doing.’ And that’s what I want to tell everybody, any athlete, from the NBA to baseball to football…join up with the USO and take a tour. It’ll give you a greater perspective on war, it’ll give you a greater perspective on the people that are fighting the war.”
The lake — of which India claims about one-third and China the rest — is more than 13,000 feet high on the Tibetan plateau and lies in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the eastern extent of China and India’s 2,175-mile mountain border.
A police official in the state said that confrontations along the de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control, were relatively common.
“These things happen every summer, but this one was slightly prolonged and more serious but no weapons were used,” a police source in the state capital, Srinagar, told AFP.
But the confrontation comes two months into a dispute between China and India near their shared border with Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas, and, the assessment added, the “use of force appears to be part of a considered design.”
“Use of stones unprecedented and unusual. Appears to be deliberate attempt to provoke and heighten tension without use of lethal weapons,” the assessment said. Steel bars and rifle butts were also used during the tussle.
On August 16, a previously scheduled border-personnel meeting was held between brigadier-rank officers from the Indian and Chinese armies. (Such meetings are usually held between colonel-rank officers).
But China’s People’s Liberation Army also declined an invitation to take part in ceremonial meetings on the border to mark India’s independence day this year — the first time the joint meetings haven’t been held since 2005, according to The Express. Another meeting usually held on the Chinese side of the border on August 1 was not held this year.
The contentious but nonviolent confrontation in the Doklam territory — known as Donglang in Chinese — near the two countries’ border with Bhutan started in mid-June, when New Delhi dispatched troops to stop Chinese construction of a road in the area, which is claimed by both China and Bhutan.
India viewed the construction as a threat because it brought Chinese personnel close to the “chicken’s neck” that connects India’s northeast territory to the rest of the country.
An Indian official said New Delhi had no choice but to act, as Chinese activity had come too close for comfort. New Delhi has also said both sides should withdraw their forces before any proper negotiation.
Beijing — which has said India is massing troops and building roads in its territory east of Doklam — has said India has no role to play in the region and that Indian personnel illegally crossed into Chinese territory. It has repeatedly asked for their unilateral withdrawal.
Chinese state media has warned India of a fate worse than its decisive defeat during a month-long border war in 1962 in India’s northeast Arunachal Pradesh state.
Chinese officials later admitted the war was launched to teach a lesson to India, which had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama and criticized China’s occupation of Tibet.
The Indian intelligence assessment issued in the hours after the August 15 incident said the skirmish at Pangong Lake could be related to the standoff in the eastern Himalayas.
“Both nations recognize that there are big differences in perception about the Line of Actual Control, but these have been managed well and troops have quickly gone back to the respective positions,” Ashok K. Kantha, former Indian ambassador to China, wrote for The Print, noting that calm along the border has endured despite past incidents.
“Ensuring that these old modalities hold is extremely important,” he added. “The alternative is not good.”
Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.
Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.
As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.
“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.
The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.
For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:
Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has so far dominated the year 2020. The news cycle is filled with statistics, new restrictions, and a suffering economy. The current pandemic is also causing rising symptoms of depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. A few women decided to change that narrative. They are encouraging others to live in a space of purpose and love.
Victoria Griggs is an active duty Army spouse living in Seattle, Washington – the area of the United States first impacted by the pandemic. She shared that she has a son with a rare blood disorder which requires frequent hospital visits, despite the shelter in place order. Her mom lovingly made her family masks to utilize during their hospital trips. “I took a quick picture and made a Facebook post thanking my mom for the masks and sharing that more could be made for anyone in need. I never dreamed it would turn into what it did,” said Griggs.
Less than 24 hours later, she was fielding hundreds of requests for masks and offers to help make more. She quickly realized that there would need to be a team to make this work and a nonprofit would need to be formed. Marine spouse Jill Campbell and Army spouse Sophia Eng came on board. Then Becky Blank and Ruthi Nguyen, who are civilians, joined in too. All of them realized they had a unique opportunity to make a difference.
Once established as an official nonprofit, they began receiving monetary donations. All of the money raised goes right into the mask making. They are now supporting multiple groups throughout the country with supplies and shipping costs that are sewing masks. They have made over 7,000 masks to date thanks to the efforts of 400 sewers. We Have Masks also has a group volunteering their time working with 3D printers to make tools for mask makers. Every piece that put We Have Masks together is based on a shared devotion to serving others.
Nurses at Kaiser Redwood City with masks generously donated by We Have Masks
On the other side of the country, Megan Brown was doing the same thing.
Her mask making all started as a way to support her fellow Air Force families at her husband’s base in Georgia. Very quickly it morphed into sewing masks for military families and first responders all over the country. Brown was open in sharing that the original idea for Milspo Mask Makers was Sarah Mainwaring’s and she was “lovingly pushed” into doing it alongside her and then eventually leading the cause. They have now made 1,200 masks to date with no end in sight.
“We are challenging the military community to stand in the gap,” Brown said. She went on to explain that her deep faith pushed her to say yes to this. Brown also shared that she couldn’t just organize this, but believed deeply that she had to be making the masks as well. “True leaders do so from the front,” she said. Brown and all of the Milspo Mask Makers are challenging the military community to make 10,000 masks by the time GivingTuesdayNow rolls around on May 5th, 2020.
Back in Seattle, Griggs was watching Brown and her mask makers. She reached out to her on a whim to connect and tell her how much she admired what she was doing. They both discussed their deep desire to bring joy to those in need and a feeling of purpose to those lost. “This is one of the darkest times in our generation. We are all going through what is essentially a group trauma,” Brown shared. Through community building and serving, they both want to help heal that trauma.
So, they’ve joined forces.
We Have Masks will begin to utilize and adopt the hashtag, #MilSpoMaskMakers to help Brown monitor their targeted goal of 10,000 masks. They are actively seeking more people who are willing to sew and support the mask making efforts. Both women encouraged those who can sew to sign up and onboard through the We Have Masks website. Those in need of masks personally or for their community can also utilize the website to request masks. Those who are able to donate to the cause can safely give there as well.
“I can’t wait to model collaboration to this generation of military spouses. It’s about meeting the need together – publicly, lovingly, and well,” said Brown. Griggs echoed that sentiment, explaining that she feels this is such a great space to be in and truly feels like they are making a difference. Together.
In a world currently filled with scenes of loss and unknowns, there can also be deep love and purpose. All it takes is a willingness to serve and the belief in the power of community.
Folds of Honor honors the sacrifice of military members by providing their loved ones with access to education.
Kelli Campbell lost her husband, Marine Maj. Shawn Campbell, in a military helicopter crash in 2016. At the time, their children were 11, 9, 6, and 2. The family had to move out of their base home in Hawaii, losing connections built within the military community that Campbell was a part of for 15 years. Their lives changed overnight.
When the family temporarily moved into her parents’ house, Campbell says she felt “set adrift, no longer able to make decisions for herself.” She had always homeschooled their children in the Classical Christian method, but she was unable to continue without her husband as her homeschool partner.
(Military Families Magazine)
Placing her children in public school would require them to attend schools at several different locations. They would be thrown into new classes in the middle of the year when they had no prior experience attending school in a classroom. Then Campbell heard about Folds of Honor.
Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children like, the Campbells, find the education they need
“I was sitting on my parents’ floor, surrounded by library books and all the kids. I was panicking about school and their future and wondering how to move forward. My mom walked in and had gotten a phone call from a Classical Christian school who was giving my children an opportunity to attend and just be in class. My friend who had connected us to the school found Folds of Honor, called them that day and made it possible for my kids to enroll. That was our first step into this new life. I was handed not just education, but a community,” she said.
Folds of Honor was established in 2007 to support the education of children who lost a parent in military service. Lt. Col. Daniel Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA golf pro, was traveling on a commercial flight when he observed the body of Army Cpl. Brock Bucklin being returned to his widow and son. Rooney and his wife Jackie were moved to help the Bucklin family, so they organized a golf tournament and raised ,000. He then asked the PGA to invite golfers to contribute id=”listicle-2647631995″ on a round of golf during Labor Day weekend. In one weekend, they raised id=”listicle-2647631995″ million.
Last year, Folds of Honor awarded 4,500 scholarships to military families, providing million in educational support.
Ben Leslie, Executive Vice President at Folds of Honor, says the organization has always remained focused on its mission of educational assistance.
“We believe it is our duty and honor to provide generational assistance for Gold Star children to go to private schools. A lot of families may struggle to find employment, or they may be stuck living in neighborhoods with lousy public schools. We believe in teaching people how to fish: If you give them an opportunity to learn, they will be able to teach their own kids and have new opportunities,” Leslie said.
For the Campbell kids, Folds of Honor filled an important gap. Campbell says Folds of Honor gave her a piece of freedom after her husband’s death.
“There is very little federal assistance for young children’s education. As soon as my husband died, everyone talked to me about college scholarships for the kids. It was a great blessing, but I didn’t need that yet, because I had a two-year-old in diapers,” she said.
“Honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy”
Campbell, who now works for Folds of Honor, says it is equally important that the organization shares the names and stories of fallen service members.
“Their motto is, ‘honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy.’ They honor them by sharing their stories and saying their names. That is huge for these kids. It isn’t easy to share, but I do it to help other families,” she explained.
Campbell choked up as she shared her husband’s legacy.
“Shawn loved people so well. The day he said goodbye to us, he prayed for our family, that we would love each other well. His favorite days were the ones when he interacted with younger Marines and was a leader to them,” she said.
A portion of Red Gold ketchup sales to be given to Folds of Honor
Folds of Honor has partnered with the company Red Gold to support military families in a creative way. This year, a new red, white and blue ketchup bottle from Red Gold is on store shelves. Not only does this increase awareness of the Folds of Honor mission, but a portion of proceeds will be donated to the military family scholarship funds.
Leslie explains that it is a natural fit for both organizations.
“Red Gold is grown and made in America, as a 4th generation American company. Red Gold’s commitment to helping and honoring our military is apparent. The bottle stands out on the shelves, and you can buy something that was made in America and supports military families.”
Campbell hopes that the partnership will drive attention to the Folds of Honor mission and the service member stories they highlight. Even though the bottles and single-use packets will be sold nationwide in chains like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Albertson’s, Campbell is most excited that it will be stocked in commissaries, because military families know what the folded flag means.
“That folded flag has so much weight to it: they say it only weighs 2 pounds, but it feels like much more to carry. Red Gold is coming along and helping families carry that weight.”
The USAA Poppy Memorial Wall launched in 2018 as a way to honor the more than 645,000 lives lost in service since World War I. Although it remains digital for the second year in a row due to the pandemic, the opportunity to participate in remembering the fallen and their ultimate sacrifice continues.
Eric Engquist is the Vice President of Brand Management for the company and is proud of USAA’s rich 99-year history of serving those who serve. He’s also an Army veteran himself, having served from 1997-2005 after graduating from West Point. Engquist deployed to Kosovo and Iraq as an infantry officer and said, “It’s an honor to work for a company that is so member centric.”
That dedication doesn’t end with those currently serving; it carries through to all who have worn the uniform, even those who are no longer with us. “Oftentimes Memorial Day is just a holiday that’s missed by the average American,” Engquist said. Referencing the frequent special sales, summer kickoffs and barbeques that are more commonly aligned with the holiday, it was important for USAA to encourage a pause, he explained.
The holiday is often confused with Veterans Day. “You hear people thanking servicemen and women for their service on Memorial Day when in reality it is to commemorate and honor the more than 645,000 men and women who’ve died,” Engquist explained.
The poppy flower has been a recognized sign of remembrance for the fallen heroes of World War I since 1918, inspired by Canadian soldier Lieutenant-Colonel John Alexander McCrae’s poem In Flanders Field. McCrae wrote the words after witnessing the red blooms peaking through the broken grounds of the battlefield.
Many countries have since adopted the poppy flower to recognize the 1918 Armistice that ended The Great War. The United States took a different approach and instead, utilizes it for Memorial Day as a way to honor her fallen from World War I and every war since.
In 2018 and 2019 the USAA Poppy Memorial Wall was erected and installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The wall is normally filled with over 645,000 poppies donated by the American Legion.
“The last couple of years we’ve been unable to travel. So, what we’ve continued to do is message the importance of Memorial Day,” Engquist said. “Even though we’ve been tested by the pandemic and all of the social and economic unrest, it’s really a great opportunity this coming weekend to pause and remember those heroes who’ve given so much.”
USAA has made it easy to participate in #HonorThroughAction by creating special poppy Zoom backgrounds, social media filters and even a way to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen hero on their website. Engquist also encouraged Americans to learn more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and to teach their children about Memorial Day.
For Engquist, the somber day of remembrance and reflection is deeply personal.
“As an officer in the Army I’ve counted upwards of 30 or 40 fellow soldiers and service members that I served under, served with or who served under me that paid the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11,” he shared. “As a West Point graduate I also reflect on the more than a dozen classmates that I graduated with who are no longer with us today. So, it’s important and it’s a somber reminder of what it means to be free and the sacrifices that others make so that we can enjoy our lives.”
Engquist shared there’s no higher calling to him than serving one’s country. After leaving the Army, he’s grateful to have found a way to continue to serve. “It’s an equal honor to be able to work for an organization that is so committed,” he said. “This is just a small example of our dedication to those we serve by recognizing the sacrifices of our servicemen and women.”
To join in the digital USAA Poppy Memorial Wall for Memorial Day, click here.
When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.
It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.
The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.
Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.
Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.
The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.
This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.
Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.
Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.
Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.
“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”
Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.
“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”
Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.
Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.
One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.
Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.
Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.
“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.
“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”
Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.
“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”
In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.
Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.
“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.
He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.
“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.
Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.
“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”
Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.
“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”
The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.
“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.
“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”
Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.
What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.
That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.
“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”
“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.
The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.
In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.
The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.
In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.
The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.
Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.
“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.
“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.
“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.
When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.
Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.
“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.
“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.
Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.
The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.
The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.
That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”
In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”
“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”
For the first time in Army history, video cameras were allowed inside boot camp, and WATM was there to capture every minute. ‘10 WEEKS’ follows recruits as they make it through the Army’s grueling boot camp. Different storylines will captivate viewers as they get to know these real life soldiers in the making. One of those soldiers was featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show’s Veterans Day special, discussing the filming and her boot camp experience. Also on the show was one of WATM’s writers, Jessica Manfre, as she shared the mission of GivingTuesdayMilitary.
For many, the desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves propels people to give back and to serve. It’s why many service members join the military. The deep desire to make a difference and positively impact the world is another. That’s something that is extremely unique to the military community and why GivingTuesdayMilitary was created.
The global GivingTuesday movement was founded in 2012 after its founders lamented their frustration with the lack of generosity or kindness following Thanksgiving. They saw America jump from that holiday straight into the craziness of shopping, leaving little room for gratitude and kindness. Since its inception, which is always the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, they’ve grown exponentially. In 2019 alone their campaigns raised over $500 million dollars for charities. It was also the same year that a few military spouses decided to join in, and put their own spin on things.
Manfre is one of the co-founders of GivingTuesdayMilitary. Their mission and purpose is to promote intentional acts of kindness, all across the globe. The thought was that due to the deep reach of the military spanning the world, spreading kindness would have a ripple effect that could be felt everywhere. Their original goal was 1 million acts and they reached 2.5 million. For 2020, they are more determined than ever to spread kindness.
“We recognize that we are in a perilous climate with the divisiveness of the election, COVID-19 virus and issues regarding inequality running rampant throughout our country,” Manfre explained. “To combat this, there really is a new urgency on our message of kindness. Despite our differences, we can unite behind kindness. Kindness doesn’t care what you look like, who you love or who you voted for. It’s something that brings us together, no matter what.”
So, what do you have to do to join in on the movement? Be kind. Go into your communities and see where there is a need and fill it. This could mean organizing drives for the homeless or foster children; writing letters for hospice veterans through Operation Holiday Salute; or, it can be the beautiful but equally vital things like leaving encouraging notes for strangers. The message is simple: you can make a difference.
Co-founder Samantha Gomolka lives by the quote, “Create the world our children already believe exists.” We couldn’t agree more and it starts with you. This December 1 — be kind. To watch episodes of The Kelly Clarkson Show, click here. To learn more about GivingTuesdayMilitary and how you can be a part of it, you can find them on all social media platforms under @GivingTuesdayMilitary or check out their website.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Back in 2008, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury emerged from the shadows to talk to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about “the Avengers initiative.” Now, 11 years and more than 20 films later, Marvel has released an alternate version of that famous post-credits scene, and it’s pretty surprising. Not only is the scene a bit longer than the 2008 release, but it also somehow teases both Spider-Man and the X-Men, even though neither was anywhere close to the MCU at that point in time.
On Sept. 14, 2019, at the Saturn Awards, Marvel boss Kevin Feige screened an alternate version of the famous Nick Fury post-credits scene. You can watch it right here.
In the scene, Nick Fury complains about “assorted mutants” and “radioactive bug bites” obvious references to both Spider-Man and the X-Men. At the time, in 2008, Iron Man was distributed by Paramount Pictures, and the umbrella term of “Marvel Studios” and the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still fairly new. Obviously, the rights issues to the X-Men were still owned by Fox at that point, and Spider-Man was still with Sony. Still, it seems like this scene cleverly got around those issues by not outright naming Spider-Man or the X-Men, specifically. (Though, it’s conceivable that the term “mutants” was maybe too far, in terms of legality at the time.)
The interesting thing is, that now, of course, Spider-Man has been a part of the MCU, and the X-Men are set to be incorporated into the new Marvel canon at some point in the future. But now, it’s almost like Marvel Studios is retroactively saying that the X-Men were always a part of these movies because, in a sense, Tony Stark and Nick Fury already had a conversation about them. We just didn’t see that conversation the first time around.
At this time, there’s been no official announcement about reboot X-Men films in the MCU. But, that could change any day now.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya wasn’t the first time such an outpost was stormed by locals. It wasn’t even the first time one was attacked in Benghazi. The Foreign Service of the United States isn’t all handshakes, ribbon cuttings, and talk. The people dedicated to improving relations with other countries while advancing U.S. foreign policy inherently put themselves at risk.
U.S. Diplomatic posts had been attacked with varying tactics and varying success before the infamous assault in Benghazi. Here’s how six others went down:
1. 1900 – Peking (Beijing), China
Anti-foreign, anti-Christian sentiment combined with severe drought in China led to armed violence against foreigners in the country as well as a general uprising against all external forces. The militias were called “Boxers” in English. The Qing Empress Dowager Cixi supported the uprising as the Boxers converged on Beijing in full force, declaring war on all foreign powers. Five hundred diplomats, foreign civilians, and Christians barricaded themselves inside the two-square-mile Foreign Legation Quarter in the Chinese capital. The Boxers laid siege to the diplomatic area as German and U.S. Marine defenders kept them at bay, even under intense artillery fire.
A 20,000-man relief army from eight nations invaded China. Japan, Russia, the British Empire, France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. The army marched 100 miles fro Tianjin to the capital in just over two weeks. British, Russian, Japanese, and French troops fought the Chinese Boxers at the city walls, trying to breach the gate. The Americans attempted to scale the walls instead of assaulting a fortified gate. Indian and Sikh troops from the British contingent were the first to break the siege of the Foreign Legation. Fifty-five of the almost 500 besieged were killed.
The U.S. Army in Beijing — then called Peking (U.S. Army Center of Military History)
2. 1927 – Nanking, China
Nationalist revolutionaries captured Nanking from a Chinese warlord in 1927, over a decade after the fall of Imperial China. These revolutionaries consisted of Chinese citizens and some Chinese Communists, but was mostly made op of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), who would later be a U.S. ally against the Japanese in World War II. When the NRA captured Nanking, enraged Chinese fighters and citizens rioted and looted foreigners homes and attacked the American, British, and Japanese consulates.
The British sent eight warships led by the aptly-named HMS Vindictive while the U.S. Navy sent five destroyers of its own up the Yangtze River to relieve the foreign citizens and evacuate them. Every time the ships steamed into the city, they came under attack.The American and British sailors returned fire with overwhelming force, silencing the Chinese guns each time. Only one British and one American sailor were killed.
3. 1967 -Benghazi, Libya
Two years before Qaddafi’s coup toppled the regime of the Elderly King Idris I, the people of Libya were still fiercely proud of their Arab nationalism. At the onset of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian propaganda convinced the locals of Benghazi U.S. Navy planes were assisting Israel in their pre-emptive strikes against Egyptian airfields and other military targets. Outraged, thousands of Egyptian migrant workers and local mobs attacked the U.S.Embassy in Benghazi, overwhelming a Libyan military detachment the government dispatched to quell the uprising. The Embassy staff held the mob back with ax handles, rifle butts, and tear gas, even after the building was set on fire.
The British tried numerous times to break through the mob to rescue the battered Americans, who stayed on the roof, trying to destroy classified material throughout the day. Eventually a British armored column managed to break through and extract the Americans. They also helped hundreds of Americans trapped in the area of the city by protecting them inside the British camp. The British moved the Americans to an airfield where they were extracted by the U.S. Air Force cargo planes.
4. 1968 – Saigon, South Vietnam
In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the United States turned over the defense of Saigon to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). By 1968, the U.S. Embassy in the capital at Saigon was defended by four Vietnamese police posts, with two U.S. Army military policemen at the entrance gate, two U.S. Marines in a guard post, with a third Marine on the roof of the embassy. On the night of January 31, 1968, 19 Viet Cong sappers open fire on the MPs at the gate, SP4 Charles L. Daniel and Pvt. 1st Class William E. Sebast, who returned fire and secured the gate. The VC then blew a hole in the perimeter wall. The first two VC fighters through the wall were killed by the Army guards, but Sebast and Daniel were killed by their attackers. The Vietnamese policemen abandoned their posts when the first shots were fired.
Inside, the Marines locked down the Embassy and started shooting into the breached wall. Inside the Embassy, the three Marines, two Vietnamese, and six American civilians jocked up and prepared for the VC assault. Meanwhile, Marines in their barracks five blocks away proceeded to the Embassy asa quick reaction force, but met with heavy resistance from the VC inside. As dawn broke, Military Policemen shot the locks off the gates and drove through it in a jeeps as MPs and Marines stormed the grounds. The 101st Airborne landed by helicopter on the roof and cleared the building.
5. 1979 – Islamabad, Pakistan
The Masjid al-Haram, or Great Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic religion, was itself taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. These terrorists believed their leader was the Mahdi, the redeemer of the Islamic faith, and called on the overthrow of the Saudi regime. Naturally, this caused ripples of outrage throughout the Islamic world. Radio reports varied, but some in Pakistan erroneously suggested the United States was responsible, began climbing the walls and trying to pull them down.
The staff retreated to the secure communication vault as the embassy was burned down around them. They locked themselves in the building until nightfall, when a Marine snuck out the back door. The Marine found the entire Embassy empty and so the 140 people quietly escaped the grounds. A similar event happened at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya at the same time, for the same reason.
6. 1979 – Tehran, Iran
When the Shah of Iran abdicated the throne in 1979, he jetted around the world from place to place, searching for a country who would grant him asylum. Unbeknownst to much of the world, the Shah was also suffering from terminal cancer. In an act of compassion, U.S. President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. for treatment. The people of Iran saw this act as complicity with a brutal regime and worried the U.S. was setting the stage to reinstall the Shah’s dictatorial regime once more, as they had done in 1953.
The Tehran Embassy had been taken over on February 4th and held for three hours before the Foreign Ministry of the new government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini convinced the attacker to give it back within three hours. On November 4th, students at the University of Tehran planned and stormed the embassy again and would hold hostages for 444 days. The Iranian government used the hostages to secure passage of its Constitution and other Khomeini-era reforms, and hold parliamentary elections. A U.S. military attempt to rescue the hostages the next year failed miserably in the deserts of Iran.
After the 1979 Embassy takeover, U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide were subjected to mortars, RPGs, and vehicle-borne improvised explosives. but a U.S. ambassador hadn’t been killed by in the course of duty since armed Islamic extremists in Kabul, Afghanistan killed Ambassador Adolph Dubs in 1979. That all changed in September 2012 when an armed militia stormed a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
(The story of the six government security contractors (also U.S. military veterans) who came to the rescue of the compound where Stevens was killed can be seen in Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in theaters Friday, January 15th.)
Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.
Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.
According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.
That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.
McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.
That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.
The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.
McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”
“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.